Truth at Last by Edward Rowland Sill

Does a man ever give up hope, I wonder, —
Face the grim fact, seeing it clear as day?
When Bennen* saw the snow slip, heard its thunder
Low, louder, roaring round him, felt the speed
Grow swifter as the avalanche hurled downward,
Did he for just one heart-throb — did he indeed
Know with all certainty, as they swept onward,
There was the end, where the crag dropped away?
Or did he think, even till they plunged and fell,
Some miracle would stop them? Nay, they tell
That he turned round, face forward, calm and pale,
Stretching his arms out toward his native vale
As if in mute, unspeakable farewell,
And so went down. — ‘T is something, if at last,
Though only for a flash, a man may see
Clear-eyed the future as he sees the past,
From doubt, or fear, or hope’s illusion free.

*Johann Joseph Bennen (1824-1864) was a Swiss mountain guide. He made several first ascents of Swiss mountains and was killed in an avalanche on the Haut de Cry in the Bernese Alps. He is said to have turned to face the avalanche with outstretched arms. A full contemporary account by one of the climbing party (John Tindall) who survived can be found here:


Date: 1887

By: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)


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